the new role of the hunter (1.7)

Certainly we can do with less hunting metaphors in politics. How about something more pastoral? Like hunters, herdsman are not committed to a permanent settlement. Where the hunter roams for the kill, the herdsman roams for the life of the flock. He is “the spiritual brother of the hunter, his better self, stressing the protective rather than the predatory function.” The lord of law and not of war.

… the shepherd moved toward the curbing of force and violence and the institution of some measure of justice, through which even the weakest member of the flock might be protected and nurtured.

In the city, the new role of the hunter is the old role of the shepherd. A shepherd to the people. But perhaps it is a choice guided by the limits of imagination. The new role of the hunter could be that of the war lord: his skills transferred from killing animals “to the more highly organized vocation of regimenting or slaughtering other men.”

The self-image of the ruler as shepherd king by no means guarantees a sustainable relationship. The Hyksos, Hammurabi, Dumuzid, David – as kings that identified themselves (or were identified) as shepherds of the people, they did exhibit a varying appetite for blood. David was forbidden to build the temple because he was a warrior that had shed blood.

It is not that the self-image of the ruler as shepherd chastises the violence of the hunter in the community, but rather that it models a poetic possibility. A possibility that enriches relationships rather than stratifies it. Cultural and vocational symbiosis. An uncertain, but sustainable basis for difference, identity, community and survival. The shepherd’s flock fertilizes the the peasant’s fields. The vigilant shepherd roaming the peripheries of the village protect the peasant’s crops and children from the predatory animals preeminently threaten their flock.

If to assert that there is something primordial about this cultural relationship between shepherd and peasant, hunter and villager, paleolithic and neolithic peoples, it is perhaps to suggest we reflect a little longer and more imaginatively about human structures of relationship. To dwell a little longer on Cain and Abel. Cain the peasant farmer tending crops he worked settled land to yield. Abel the shepherd wandering with his flock for the yield of distant lands. Mumford notes that early cave drawings don’t depict hunters hunting humans, only animals. It is with the permanent settlements that the hunters begin in earnest to mobilize and kill people. And so, a little bit of an intriguing mystery: Cain murders his brother Abel. The farmer gets the first taste of blood. Reconciled to God, he is marked a citizen. A builder of cities.

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